“I’ll admit, I’m pretty damn happy you said my name, or I was gonna have to kick the ass of whoever you were asking to make love to.”
My cheeks heated, and a rush of embarrassment hit me. Tanner noticed and kissed me softly. “Let’s get you out of the cold, shall we?”
“I think we should. I can’t feel my body anymore.”
He gave me a once-over. “Are you hurt?”
My chest fluttered with a feeling that I was becoming all too familiar with when it came to Tanner Shaw. Was this what falling in love felt like? Because I hadn’t felt this ever before. The way he made me feel like I was his everything. Was it just a silly notion, because for the first time in my life, someone looked at me like I was their everything?
With a slow, deep breath in, I stared at him, suddenly unable to find words. Snow started to softly fall all around us, and for one crazy moment I couldn’t help but think how romantic this was. The wind howling through the trees, the snow falling, and the way Tanner looked at me with such a caring expression. From the moment Tanner had entered my world, it felt like something deep inside me had awakened. I was seeing everything in color instead of dull grays. I hadn’t even known the difference until I experienced it.
“My ankle, I don’t think it’s broken, but to be honest, I haven’t tried walking on it.”
Tanner moved back and looked down at my feet. “Which one?”
“The left one.”
He nodded, then stood. “Here, let’s stand up slowly.”
I reached for his hands and allowed him to help me up. As I put pressure on my ankle, I let out a small yelp. “Ouch! Okay, it hurts.”
Tanner cursed, pulled out a walkie-talkie from his jacket, and talked into it. “I’ve got her. We’re closer to the cabin on the lake than we are the house. Looks like she might have sprained her ankle and has a bit of hypothermia. I need to get her warmed up.”
“Shit,” came Ty’s voice from the other end.
Ty Senior chimed in, “Take her to the log cabin, Tanner. I had Jimmy stock it with some food last week. The Millers were planning on staying at the cabin for the holiday. They canceled when they saw the storm coming in.”
“That’s luck!” Brock added.
“Sounds good.” Tanner pulled my body tighter against him as we stood there. “We’re heading there now. I’ll check in once I get Timberlynn warm and settled.”
“Got it,” his father said.
“Hold this,” Tanner said as he handed me the walkie-talkie, then he bent down and lifted me up. He carried me over to Pogo and put me up on the horse. Then he jumped on and sat behind me. He took the walkie-talkie from me and winked. I was stunned when I heard a girlish giggle slip from my lips.
Tanner pressed the button and spoke. “Dad, I’ve only got one problem. Pogo. Is there hay or anything in the barn for him? What about the water trough?”
“There’s hay; I always keep it stocked just in case,” Ty answered instead of their father. “As far as the water goes, you’re gonna have to keep checkin’ on it. Hopefully it won’t freeze too bad since that barn is pretty well built and will keep all the wind out.”
“Sounds good,” Tanner said, then handed the walkie-talkie to me again and said, “Hang on.”
He gave Pogo a kick and got him going into a trot. The cold wind felt like knives hitting me, and my body trembled.
“You okay?” he called out over the wind. I put up a thumb to indicate I was, even though I was far from okay. I was freezing, and the faster we got inside, the better.
Tanner was right—we were close to the lake and log cabin. I gasped at the sight before me as we approached. “Goodness, it’s beautiful!” I took in the frozen lake and mountains that surrounded us. Sitting across from the lake was a log house that was most certainly not the little cabin I had envisioned in my mind. It was a one-story log home with a large front porch and windows that made me itch to see what the view was from the inside looking out. A small little wooden bridge was built over a creek that fed into the lake.
“I’ve never in my life seen anything so beautiful! Why don’t your parents live here?” I asked as Tanner laughed. To the side of the house was a large wooden barn.
“The barn!” I gasped.
“That barn is my pride and damn joy. Brock, Beck, and I built that barn with our father. Ty was already out on the circuit and helped when he came back into town, but it was mostly me, Beck, and Dad who built it.”
“Tanner, it’s…it’s beautiful,” I said as he drew closer to it.
The lake was a lot bigger than I thought it would be, but then I shouldn’t have been surprised considering I could see it from the main barn on the ranch. I couldn’t help but smile. I knew this wasn’t the most ideal situation to be in, but it occurred to me that Tanner and I would finally be alone. In this beautiful log home, on the lake, during a snowstorm. Fate had a funny way of showing up at times. My entire body trembled with anticipation, or from being cold as hell.
“We’re almost to the house. We’ll get you warmed up soon, babe,” Tanner told me.
I shook my head and looked back at him. “It’s not that. I just realized you and I are going to be completely alone.”
A sexy grin appeared on his face. “That’s definitely one way to warm you up.” Tanner brought Pogo up to the house and jumped off. He motioned for me to lean forward so he could help me down.
“I think I can walk,” I stated, but Tanner wouldn’t let me. He carried me up the porch steps and to the front door. He punched in a code and then walked into the log house.
With a quick intake of air, I glanced around and instantly fell in love, almost forgetting how chilled to the bone I was. “This place is beautiful!” I said as Tanner set me down on the sofa and grabbed a small blanket and wrapped it around me.
“Wait right here. Let me go get Pogo settled, and then I’ll be back in. Are you okay until I get back?”
I nodded. “You don’t need help?”
He laughed. “No, you get warm.”
Not wanting to admit to Tanner how heavenly the heated house felt, I simply nodded.
After Tanner left and my body warmed up, I slowly stood and put weight on my ankle. It hurt, but I was pretty positive it wasn’t broken. I took off my hat, scarf, gloves, and jacket, and then took the log house in. I was still shivering, but it was starting to settle down a bit more as I got warmer.
Before me was a giant, freestanding stone fireplace. Above the massive stone mantel was a family portrait of the Shaws. I smiled at the sight of the four brothers, much younger in the photo. Maybe high-school age. All handsome and all of them with blue eyes except for Beck. His green eyes nearly jumped out at you, they were so green. Stella and Ty Senior stood in the back, and I felt my smile grow across my face. Those boys for sure got their looks from their daddy. And Stella, my goodness was she beautiful.
I turned and stared out the large wall of windows that overlooked the frozen lake. I slowly shook my head and sat down on the sofa. “Wow.” It was the only word that seemed to come to mind as I stared at the view. The storm was moving in, and it was getting darker out, but I still had a clear view of everything. Including the snow that was now falling on the other side of the lake. It was coming our way.
I turned and focused on getting the boot off of my sore ankle. When I finally got it and my sock off, I grimaced. It was very swollen and now bruised. I let out a frustrated sigh. I was so angry with myself for taking Rosie out. I had been itching to ride, but I should have heeded Jimmy’s warning.
Dropping back against the sofa, I stared at the ceiling and started to go over the plans I had for my own little ranch. A smile spread across my face as I thought about all the things I couldn’t wait to do. It would never be as amazing as this house was with its view, at least from the
little I’d seen of it, but it would be all mine.
When I heard the front door open, I lifted my head and saw Tanner. He shook off some snow. “It’s snowing on this side of the lake now?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s coming down pretty good. I’m so glad I found you when I did.”
I chewed nervously on my lip. “I’m so sorry, Tanner. It was stupid of me to go for a ride, but I honestly didn’t think the storm would move in until later this afternoon.”
Tanner hung up his coat and scarf, and dropped his gloves onto a table by the front door. He walked over and grabbed all my stuff to hang it up as well. “Don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m kind of glad you got yourself lost in the woods.”
With a grin, I asked, “Why?”
With his hands motioning around him, he replied, “Look where we are. Alone.”
My cheeks grew hot.
“Let me take a look at that ankle,” he said. He walked over and crouched down in front of me, gently touching around my foot. “It’s swollen, but I think you’re right. If you had broken it, it would look and feel a lot worse. Trust me, I know.”
I let out a soft laugh. Tanner gently massaged my foot, which caused me to let out a soft moan of pleasure. Even with the tenderness in my ankle, it felt so good to have his warm hands on me. The feeling left me a bit breathless. A warmth rushed through my veins, instantly making my body heat and the pain in my ankle fade to a dull throb. A new throb between my legs was taking precedent.
He took off my other boot and sock and massaged that foot as well, only this time more aggressively since it wasn’t injured. “You’ve had an adventure, haven’t you? What happened with Rosie?” Tanner asked.
My eyes had closed, but at the mention of the horse, I opened them again. “She didn’t make it back to the barn?”
“Oh, she did. She was in a fit; that’s when we really panicked because you weren’t with her.”
A crackling sound came from behind Tanner. His father’s voice said, “Tanner?”
Tanner reached behind and grabbed a walkie-talkie from his back pocket. “We’re in the house, Dad. I got Pogo in the barn with some hay. He’s got a blanket on and I was able to fill up the water for the trough. It’s pretty toasty in the barn, so I don’t think the water will freeze, but I’ll keep an eye on it. Timberlynn and I are in the house. I’m looking at her ankle, then I’ll get us settled. Looks like we’ll be staying here through the storm.”